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Need for senior center raised in Bedford

BEDFORD — A local planning official is frustrated that Bedford’s senior citizens have been placed on the back burner, arguing this week that a new senior center or community center must be included in the town’s proposed capital improvement plan.

His comments were met with criticism from another official who says there might be more pressing needs in Bedford that need to be prioritized, specifically recommendations for a new police station and fire substation.

As local officials consider adopting a new capital improvement pfor 2019, Charles Fairman of the Bedford Planning Board says he is disappointed that a senior center or community center is not included in the proposal.

“In general, I think that for a community like Bedford not to have a community center or senior center is a shame. We need to get on that,” he told the board.

He said money could either be invested in the former Stevens-Buswell School or the old town hall, or a new structure could be built to provide recreational opportunities for Bedford’s senior citizens.

“Let’s start talking about senior people in this community that don’t have children that pay a majority of our taxes and do something for them for a change, not just for the youth of the community,” said Fairman.

Kelleigh Murphy, a town councilor and Planning Board member, said there are several committees studying every aspect of a recent townwide facilities plan to determine what is needed 10 years from now, including the demand on Bedford’s police and fire departments.

“I think it would be premature to throw projects into capital improvements prior to fully vetting them,” said Murphy, stressing the need to explore all of the town’s priorities.

It is more challenging than just installing a new boiler system in one of these buildings, she said. It must first be determined whether the buildings are viable for long-term maintenance, but most importantly, Murphy said the staffing costs for a senior center need to be considered.

“I would hope that we would take a global approach and fully vet all of our potential decisions as opposed to piecemealing it, which is dangerous for long-range planning,” said Murphy, adding she understands the desire for a senior center in Bedford is near and dear to many residents.

Fairman questioned whether impact fees could be used to help with a senior center project.

“We have nothing for senior recreation and I think it is time that those things get addressed,” he said.

Outside of the proposed capital improvement plan, Bedford also kicked off its new master plan process on Thursday.

Residents gathered Thursday at the Manchester Country Club to share their input on the project.

“With so many active projects in the community, the master plan update comes at an opportune time,” Jon Levenstein, chairman of the Planning Board, said in a statement, noting the new Market and Main development and the ongoing Route 101 widening project.

The master plan, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2019, will include goals and objectives related to transportation, housing, economic development, resilience, natural and historic resources, recreation, community design and more, according to a release; the town’s master plan was last updated in 2010.

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